Writer Wednesday: Julie Ryan

Julie was born and brought up in a mining village near Barnsley in South Yorkshire. She graduated with a BA (Hons) in French Language and Literature from Hull University. Since then she has lived and worked as a Teacher of English as a Foreign Language in France, Greece, Poland and Thailand.

She now lives in rural Gloucestershire with her husband, son and a dippy cat with half a tail. She is so passionate about books that her collection is now threatening to outgrow her house, much to her husband’s annoyance! Jenna’s Journey is her debut novel set in Greece, a country to which she has a strong attachment. She is now working on a second novel in the series, Sophia’s Story.  

1. Why did you want to become a writer?
I think the writing bug has always been there because as a child I was always scribbling stories. Then, like many people I suppose, I found that life just got in the way. I always wanted to write a novel though and ‘Jenna’s Journey’ has been waiting to be written for about twenty years or so. It was a chance encounter with another writer in my village that gave me the self-confidence to actually finish it.

2. What's the toughest part of the writing process for you?
The toughest part for me is trying to make sense of all the ideas that are floating around in my head. I’m not the kind of writer that can plot out a whole novel in advance so there are many plot changes along the way. Trying to motivate myself to write when the creative muse is not there is also tough and I have to discipline myself to try and write something every day.

3. What's the most enjoyable part of writing?
I love it when characters that only exist in my mind start to ‘speak’ to me and change the course of the novel. It’s also extremely frustrating that they won’t do what they’re told but it means they are becoming ‘real’ and in the end, most of us want to create believable characters, don’t we? The real highlight though is when someone tells you that they’ve enjoyed your book. I get a thrill every time!

4. Out of all the amazing books out there, which book do you wish you had written and why?  
That’s a really tough one because there are so many great books out there that I wish I’d had the skill to write. If I had to choose one book then I’d have to pick The Magus by John Fowles. The writing is beautiful, the setting is Greece and each time I read it, there is something else that strikes me that I missed the previous time. He captures the mystery and magic of the country perfectly.

5. If you could only save one of your characters from fictional calamity, who would you pick and why? 
I’d like my hero Nikos to have had an easier life. He’s gone through a lot of suffering to reach the place he’s now at and deserves some happiness. I’d like to see those sad brown eyes twinkle a little more. He really needs to ‘man-up’ and stand up to his grandmother. Of course, he wouldn’t be the same person if I ‘saved’ him from all that but you may just have to wait for the next book to see if he finds happiness with Jenna.

6. If you could spend the day with your favourite character (not from your books), who would you spend it with and what would you do?
I’d love to spend the day with Rhett Butler from Gone With the Wind. I read this book when I was in my teens and fell in love with Rhett – the kind of man to sweep a girl off her feet and never did understand why Scarlet couldn’t see that he was the perfect man for her. We’d go on a tour of the deep South where he’d introduce me to all the grand families. Then there would be a walk in the grounds where I would get lost and he would have to rescue me. Then there would be a great ball in the evening where my dance card would be full – with just one name on it. After such a public declaration, he’d have to marry me!

7. What can we expect next from you?
I enjoyed writing my first book so much that I couldn’t stop. I’m currently in the process of writing a second book, provisionally entitled Sophia’s Story. It’s set on the same Greek island but with different main characters although you may find some of the characters from Jenna’s Journey popping by. I can’t tell you the plot at the moment as I don’t quite know how it’s going to work out. You can be sure though that there will be lots of romance, mystery and intrigue but it’s quite different from my first book.

8. Is there any particular writing advice you wish you'd been given at the start of your writing career? If so, what is it? If not, what advice would you give to someone starting out?
The best advice I was given was to discipline yourself to write every day. It worked for me and even if there are days when the writing’s not going well, at least you have something that can be edited or filed away to be used elsewhere. If you only write 1000 words per day, you will have the equivalent of a full- length novel in three months! Of course, that’s when the really hard work starts.

9. Tell us what a typical writing day involves for you.
Well, first of all, every day is different for me as in addition to writing I also work part time as a distance language tutor for a French company. Typically, I may have an early morning lesson so that means getting up at 6.45 ready to be on the phone for my first student at 7am. (On a really bad day, I have been known to give my lesson in my dressing gown so thank goodness it’s by phone and not Skype where it would give my students a shock!) Then it’s a case of getting my young son ready for school. After a natter with the other mums (always a good source of inspiration for a story) it’s back home where I make a cup of good coffee and read my emails, do whatever I need to do on social media, and prepare myself mentally for writing.

By now it’s probably nearing 10am so armed with another coffee, I read through the last chapters of my wip and start to write. Sometimes the ideas just flow, other times I find myself blocked and may go back and edit while I wait for inspiration. At midday it’s time for a sandwich before I teach again for a couple of hours in the afternoon. Then it’s time to pick up my son and we spend time talking about his day, having a snack and reading. If there’s time, I might just review what I’ve written that day before it’s time for dinner.

Another lesson in the evening and then I collapse in front of the TV to watch anything that doesn’t require thought! I’d love to be able to write at night but my treat is to read  so every night if possible I try and read even if just for 10 minutes until I find my eyes closing. It’s usually at this point that my own characters start to speak and my mind is full of what I’m going to write next day.

10. Finally, what are you reading at the moment?
I usually have several books on the go at any one time. I was lucky enough to receive a hard copy of Briar Rose by Jana Oliver so that’s by my bed. I’m also reading The Art of Becoming Homeless by Sara Alexi. I love all the books in the series as I’m immediately transported to Greece.

Jenna's Journey

When Jenna decides on a whim to go to Greece, she’s trying to escape her failing marriage. Will Greg let her go so easily though? Can she make a new future for herself and how did she get involved in an antiques smuggling ring? Is fellow holidaymaker Tom all he seems and will it be happy ever after with Nikos? It’s not until twenty-five years later that some of the questions are finally answered.

Buy Jenna's Journey | Read Julie's blog | Follow her on Twitter


  1. Thank you so much Elle for hosting me on your wonderful blog.

  2. A lovely interview, Elle! Love your cover, Julie and good luck with your work in progress. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Jenna's Journey - I've never been there, but you made me feel like I have!